Governors Island is closed, but seasonal changes continue to sweep across the landscape. From the Historic District to Picnic Point, beautiful spring blooms are appearing everywhere! Above, a Prunus ‘Snow Goose’ flowering cherry’s brilliant white blossoms light up Liggett Terrace.
Pink magnolias contrast with the blue sky near Castle Williams.
Star magnolias emerge in dazzling numbers on Colonels Row.
This summersweet, whose flowers form in long clusters called bottlebrushes, aids drainage as part of a bioswale in the Urban Farm (and looks great while doing it).
Saucer magnolia buds are nearly ready to unfurl at the foot of Discovery Hill.
A variety of bright daffodils dot the Historic District along with an assortment of wildflowers.
Hibiscus buds appear small for now but will soon become impressively large, scarlet blooms in Liggett Terrace.
Vibrant cornelian cherry flowers match the iconic yellow houses of Nolan Park. As spring progresses, more and more blooms will appear on Governors Island—follow us on social media for the latest floral developments!
The Trust for Governors Island is working closely with the City of New York to monitor this quickly evolving public health concern. The health and safety of the Island’s staff, visitors and tenants is our top priority.
Please check back for further announcements related to our planned May 1 opening. While Governors Island is currently closed to the public, The Trust will be monitoring the situation and is assessing impacts to the Island’s upcoming public season, as well as the latest developments on recommendations for public spaces.
For the latest info and resources related to COVID-19 click here.
March 11, 2020. New York, NY. The Trust for Governors Island today issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) designed to strengthen Governors Island’s arts and culture offerings and transform the Island into a year-round cultural destination. The RFP invites artistic, cultural, environmental and educational organizations to submit proposals for use of two buildings in Nolan Park, a collection of 20 former military officer homes on a long-term basis. The RFP is part of the Trust’s broader efforts to breathe new life into several buildings within the Island’s Historic District with year-round tenants in the areas of arts and culture, commercial activity, and hospitality and amenities to support both expanded access and increasing visitorship.
“Arts and education have been central to Governors Island’s remarkable transformation over the past decade, and its history, architecture and ecology make it an inspiring place for learning and creativity,” said Clare Newman, President and CEO of the Trust for Governors Island. “We’re thrilled to grow our community of year-round tenants by offering long-term spaces to arts and educational organizations in Nolan Park, an incredibly unique campus setting for both creating and experiencing cultural programming”
The buildings offered through the RFP are located within Nolan Park, a collection of 20 19th century homes five minutes from daily ferry service from Lower Manhattan and part of the Governors Island Historic District. 20 Nolan, a 1902 construction originally built as a single-family home, will be gut-renovated by the Trust and converted into two pre-built suites, each approximately 2,600 SF and will be move-in ready by 2022. Each suite will be offered to cultural organizations with ground-floor space for exhibitions and public programs, with additional upstairs space for offices, artist studios and classroom space. 9 Nolan, a 8,500 SF building built in1839 building that has been used as residences, a hospital and the headquarters for the Military Division of the Atlantic, is available for immediate occupancy and offered as-is. The building contains 13 dormitory-style studios with communal kitchens and facilities which can be converted into studio spaces for an artist residency program, or offices for cultural organizations. This RFP is the first offering of these unique spaces for year-round, long-term cultural use. Two additional RFPs for buildings within the Historic District will be released in the coming months.
Over time, the Trust intends to transform Nolan Park into a multi-tenant cultural campus. This RFP seeks to provide long-term homes for organizations in the arts and culture space, giving Governor Island a year-round presence in the field, as well as environmental organizations looking to take advantage of the Island’s New York Harbor location. The Trust will undertake necessary restoration of the buildings in order to make the RFP accessible to a broad range of organizations.
Responses to the RFP are due May 29, 2020. To view the RFP, click here.
Over the past decade, Governors Island has grown as a lively center for arts, culture, environmental research and recreation. Nolan Park has played a key role in this transformation as a seasonal hub for free cultural programming during the Island’s public season. In 2019, 30 organizations spanning the visual arts, performance, culture, environmental science and education presented exhibits, workshops, performances and talks, and hosted artists-in-residence in the historic houses of Nolan Park and Colonels Row. The Trust intends expand this successful seasonal programming model into year-round tenancies for cultural organizations across NYC and beyond.
Governors Island has undergone a tremendous transformation in recent years, including a $400 million investment in Island-wide infrastructure and the creation of a resilient 43-acre park. Successful respondents to this RFP will join the diverse roster of Governors Island tenants, including the Urban Assembly NY Harbor School, a public high school with over 500 students that offers career and technical education in marine and environmental careers; the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Arts Center, an artist residence program that functions as a public gallery space during the season and completed a 40,000 square foot renovation last September; and QC Terme, a destination day spa that is currently under construction.
In 2020, Governors Island will be open every day from May 1 through October 31. The Island is open from 10 AM to 6 PM on weekdays and from 10 AM to 7 PM on weekends, Memorial Day, July 4 and Labor Day.
About The Trust for Governors Island The Trust for Governors Island is the nonprofit corporation created by the City of New York that is responsible for the redevelopment and operation of 150 acres of Governors Island. The Trust's mission is to transform Governors Island into a vibrant resource for New York City, making this island at the center of New York Harbor a destination with extraordinary public open space, as well as educational, not-for-profit and commercial facilities.
March 9, 2020. The Trust for Governors Island (The Trust) announced today its lineup of free seasonal programming and exhibitions, presented by 30 organizations during Governors Island’s 2020 public season. The historic former military houses in Nolan Park and Colonels Row will once again serve as venues for the programs, which will engage visitors of all ages with offerings that span visual and performing arts, environmental science, and culture. Outdoor programs on urban agriculture and environmental sustainability will also return on weekends at Governors Island’s Urban Farm. Governors Island will be open to the public in 2020 from May 1 through November 1. More announcements on special events and other details about Governors Island’s 2020 season will be made in the coming weeks.
“We’re excited to announce another packed summer lineup this year, with a range of new events and old favorites designed to engage New Yorkers in all Governors Island has to offer,” said Clare Newman, President and CEO of the Trust for Governors Island. “We’re proud to celebrate New York City’s diverse cultural community by hosting free programs from 30 organizations ranging from visual art presented by international artists, hands-on activities for kids and discussions on pressing environmental issues. We invite everyone to visit and experience Governors Island’s rich history, diverse ecology and stunning waterfront views—it’s just a quick ferry ride away.”
New programs coming to Governors Island this year include the inaugural Asia Society Triennial, titled We Do Not Dream Alone, which will debut in locations across New York City on June 5. On Governors Island, We Do Not Dream Alone will showcase works by 12 international artists and collectives displayed in three historic buildings along Colonels Row, on view Wednesdays–Sundays through August 9. Other new programs in the historic houses include an exhibition and research hub of architectural solutions to the challenges of climate change by the GAUD at Pratt Institute School of Architecture; explorations of New York’s linguistic diversity by the Endangered Language Alliance; traditional kimono exhibitions, workshops and live performances by Japan Performing Arts; a STEM-focused installation for all ages by Beam Center; works by students, faculty and alumni of Pennsylvania College of Art & Design examining human alterations to the environment; and visual arts exhibitions and residency programs for New York artists by Art Crawl Harlem, BronxArtSpace, and New York Art Residency and Studios (NARS) Foundation.
A diverse group of organizations will return to host programs on Governors Island this season, including the New Art Dealers Alliance (NADA), which will present works by dozens of artists across two Colonels Row houses; the Climate Museum’s public exhibition on climate science and solutions; art exhibitions and residencies by the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA); showcases, talks and performances by Native artists with the American Indian Community House; the return of 4heads’ Portal, the expansive annual art fair now in its 13th year; and many more.
“Every year arts and culture on Governors Island continues to grow, welcoming new voices, new perspectives and new programs that deepen our understanding of the world around us,” said Meredith Johnson, VP of Art and Culture at the Trust for Governors Island. “We are excited to welcome visitors in 2020, furthering the Island’s commitment to audiences and cultural organizations from across the five boroughs with a season exploring the most pressing issues of our time and providing platforms for presentation unlike any other in New York.”
Every year, the Trust invites organizations and non-profits operating in the fields of art, culture and education to propose seasonal public programs including exhibitions, residencies, workshops, performances, talks, screenings and more to be held in the Island’s iconic houses. Governors Island provides a platform for organizations from New York and beyond to reach a diverse and growing audience of engaged visitors, where collaboration is encouraged between participating organizations and space is provided to presenters free of charge.
The Island’s arts and culture program continues to grow in new ways each year. In September 2019, the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council opened its expanded Arts Center at Governors Island, a 40,000 sq. ft. facility that houses galleries with exhibitions and free programs accessible to visitors in the public season as well as year-round studio space for 40 resident artists. The Arts Center will present its first full season of public programming in 2020 with more details to be announced soon.
Environmental science and urban agriculture programs return this year to the Urban Farm on Governors Island. Earth Matter NY, GrowNYC, The Honeybee Conservancy and Island Bee Project will continue their public programs where visitors can roll up their sleeves and dig into a wealth of topics related to the environment and sustainable agriculture in urban settings.
Programs in Nolan Park, Colonels Row and the Urban Farm will open to the public on weekends beginning in May and continuing through November 1, with additional public hours for some programs. Programs on Colonels Row will be presented in two sessions and will rotate in August. All are free and open to the public. Additional details on all indoor programs are available below.
In 2020, Governors Island will be open to the public daily from May 1 to November 1. The Island will be open 10AM-6PM on weekdays and 10AM-7PM on weekends. Additional details about the Island’s 2020 season and special events will be announced in the coming weeks.
Free ongoing arts, culture and education programs presented on Governors Island in 2020 include:
PROGRAMS IN NOLAN PARK (Weekends, May 2-November 1, 11AM-5PM, unless otherwise noted)
American Indian Community House The American Indian Community House will present art exhibitions and artists talks with Native artists from New York City in the Admiral’s House in Nolan Park. In addition, AICH will host live music and dance performances as well as projects about Native American history in NYC. American Indian Community House will be open 2-5PM Wednesdays through Fridays beginning May 1 in addition to 11AM-5PM on weekends.
Art Crawl Harlem Art Crawl Harlem’s house will feature curated exhibitions of emerging and underrecognized local artists and a site-specific residency program that encourages artists to explore the links between Governors Island, Harlem and the globe through painting, photography, performance and multimedia storytelling.
Billion Oyster Project In the BOP exhibit in Nolan Park, visitors will get up close and personal with everyone’s favorite bi-valve. Visitors can dive into the work of the Billion Oyster Project to restore oyster populations in New York’s waterways, learn about their collaboration with the New York Harbor School and discover NYC oyster history and the many marine critters that call the Big Apple home.
The Climate Museum The Climate Museum will present an exhibition that focuses on steps we can take toward a climate-safe future. The Climate Museum’s program in Nolan Park will open in June 2020.
Endangered Language Alliance In celebration of ELA’s 10th anniversary, Hearing New York will showcase the city’s lesser-known languages and cultures with a focus on forging a new kind of public linguistics. The house will feature Mother Tongues, a photo series featuring speaker portraits, as well as video and audio recordings. ELA will also host an event series presenting poetry, music and stories from a wide range of languages and regions, education and literacy programs, a film series and more. The Endangered Language Alliance’s program in Nolan Park will be open May 2-September 7.
Harvestworks Harvestworks will present a dynamic program of residencies, exhibitions and workshops centered on the intersection of art and technology, including the annual New York Electronic Art Festival, a celebration of 21st-century art and experiences, as well as a participatory environment for artists, scientists and the public.
Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA) The Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts returns to Governors Island with MoCADA House. Featuring art exhibitions, performances, workshops, film screenings and more every weekend, expect to discover the work of rising artists as part of the museum’s Creators in Residence program and its new multidisciplinary residency program, Masters At Work. Explore themes of identity and expression, roots and culture, love and imagination, health, community and arts education through the lens of the African Diaspora.
The New York Virtual Volcano Observatory The New York Virtual Volcano Observatory brings the experience of exploring a volcano to Governors Island. Join volcanologists from CUNY, NYU and other NYC institutions to discover the complex life of magmas and volcanos – and the rich volcanic history of the New York region – through virtual reality experiences, a volcano sound gallery, guest speakers and kid-friendly activities.
NYC Audubon Visit NYC Audubon’s urban nature center for family-friendly activities, information on the city’s birds and habitats, binoculars to borrow and opportunities to meet avian-inspired artists at work. Visitors can join nature-themed workshops and guided bird walks across Governors Island, where over 200 unique species have been documented.
Pennsylvania College of Art & Design The Pennsylvania College of Art & Design will present Definitely, Probably, an exhibition focusing on climate change and human interventions in the natural world. Featuring artworks by PCA&D students, faculty, staff and alumni, as well as special programs for young artists, Definitely, Probably centers on three main curatorial pillars: intergenerational dialogue, artists as creative innovators and the college’s home city of Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
Pioneer Works Pioneer Works is a cultural center and artist residency
based in Red Hook, Brooklyn, devoted to building community through the arts and
sciences. Pioneer Works will use their house on Governors Island as a platform
to support artist residencies and collaboration with other program partners
from around New York City, as well as a venue for presenting special classes,
participatory programs, and performances across our creative disciplines.
play:groundNYC (outdoor) play:groundNYC is back for a 5th season on Governors Island. Come and play, build and create at New York City’s only adventure playground. Located just south of Nolan Park, the Yard is a 50,000 square-foot adventure playground stocked with loose parts, tools and space for kids to play, imagine and dream big. In addition to free weekend play, play:groundNYC offers an 11-week summer camp program, school field trips and more. play:groundNYC’s The Yard will be open weekends 12-4pm.
Pratt Institute School of Architecture The Pratt Institute School of Architecture will showcase research and design projects by students and faculty inspired by Governors Island and addressing the challenges of climate change in the urban environment. Projects include explorations of how historic buildings can be modified to be more energy efficient, as well as flood mitigation and adaptation strategies for creating more resilient coastlines.
Swale Swale will present a variety of environmental arts programming exploring the intersections of soil, water and food. Visitors will be invited to participate in walk-in workshops and join free classes on a diverse array of environmental and arts topics. In addition, exhibitions and multimedia installations will explore our shared relationship with the natural world. Swale will also host public programs in the Urban Farm with more details to be announced soon.
Triangle Arts Association Triangle Arts Association is an artist-founded, non-profit art institution working locally and globally since 1982, with programs that emphasize research, dialogue and experimentation through residencies and public programs. On Governors Island, Triangle will host ongoing residencies for artists across disciplines, including sculpture, painting, performance and video. An evolving exhibition will provide visitors with a first-hand view of works-in-process.
West Harlem Art Fund With over two decades of experience showcasing art in public spaces, West Harlem Art Fund creates exhibitions emphasizing contemporary art’s relationship to history and cultural heritage. In Nolan Park, West Harlem Art Fund will partner with local galleries to present exhibitions of international artists exploring migration, cultural exchange and connections between Governors Island, NYC and points around the globe.
Works on Water Works on Water will host a residency for artists, writers, designers and researchers working on, in and with water. Studios will be open to the public on the weekends with rotating interactive projects and exhibitions in the main space. The works exhibited aim to deepen the experience of visiting the Island by connecting visitors to the waterways that surround and sustain us.
PROGRAMS IN COLONELS ROW, SESSION 1 (Weekends, May 2-August 2, 11AM-5PM, unless otherwise noted)
4heads Artists-in-Residency Program The 4heads Artists-in-Residency Program welcomes the public inside their historic house on Colonels Row for Open Studio Weekends, select weekends when visitors are invited to step into working art studios where the artists-in-residence are creating new work and discussing their process.
Asia Society Triennial: We Do Not Dream AloneWe Do Not Dream Alone In summer 2020, Asia Society will launch We Do Not Dream Alone, its inaugural Triennial of art, ideas and innovation on Governors Island and sites across NYC. On Colonels Row, 12 international artists and collectives will create immersive, site-specific installations in several houses and the surrounding lawns as part of the city-wide exhibition. The Asia Society Triennial will be open 1-5PM Wednesdays through Fridays and 11AM-6PM on weekends, June 5 through August 9.
Beam Center Beam Center is a community of artists, kids, teens, adults and designers collaborating to create spectacular projects rooted in a passionate curiosity for learning, making and sharing. Beam Center will turn a house on Colonels Row into an enchanting light-art installation where every room is filled with immersive illuminations on the multi-dimensional properties of light, including infinity mirrors, touch-responsive LEDs and more, plus hands-on workshops such as solar printing and circuitry building.
New Art Dealers Alliance (NADA) NADA will host the third edition of its collaborative, public exhibition on Governors Island this season. Spanning two historic buildings on Colonels Row, the exhibition is inspired by the Island as a site for artistic experimentation and will feature works by dozens of artists from the organization’s international community of galleries and alternative spaces. NADA’s program on Colonels Row will be open Thursdays-Sundays, May 7 through August 2.
Syracuse University Through an artist residency program and rotating exhibitions, MFA graduate students from the Syracuse University College of Visual and Performing Arts will present works responding to the history, environment and architecture of Governors Island. The house will serve as a hub for an institution with global reach as well as a vehicle for NYC audiences to connect with the next generation of artists.
PROGRAMS IN COLONELS ROW, SESSION 2 (Weekends, August 29-November 1, 11AM-5PM, unless otherwise noted)
4heads presents Portal: Governors IslandPortal: Governors Island Portal: Governors Island is a free, large-scale, independent art fair celebrating its 12th year on the Island. This expansive exhibition will include over 80 artist projects and immersive installations during the month of September. Visitors will be introduced to the best, newly discovered emerging artists in what the New York Times has dubbed “The Art Fair for the 99%.” Portal: Governors Island will be open weekends, September 4-27.
BronxArtSpace BronxArtSpace is a nonprofit gallery promoting the innovative ideas of underrepresented and emerging artists. Their Colonels Row house will be a platform to showcase the work of contemporary artists from the Bronx and beyond through a residency and exhibition program inspired by the Island as a site for addressing environmental and other issues of global concern.
Escaping Time The exhibition Escaping Time: Art from U.S. Prisons offers visitors a view of the creativity that exists within prison walls. The paintings and sculptures on display reflect the ways in which people who are incarcerated cope with their respective situations, while the staff and other aspects of the exhibition also offer insight into issues related to the criminal justice system.
Japan Performing Arts The Japan Performing Arts house on Colonels Row will feature an exhibition of traditional kimono costumes and eco-friendly textile workshops, as well as live performances of Bon Odori dances and other art forms that expand into the Island’s outdoor spaces.
New York Art Residency and Studios (NARS) Foundation NARS is a Brooklyn-based organization dedicated to supporting artists at the local and international level. Their residency program on Colonels Row will allow artists to research and produce new work in dialogue with the public, while curated exhibitions will showcase work by NARS’ network of over 200 artists from 36 countries.
PROGRAMS IN THE URBAN FARM (Weekends, May 2-November 1, 12-4PM, unless otherwise noted)
Earth Matter NY’s Compost Learning Center & Soil Start Farm Visitors can get their hands dirty at the Compost Learning Center! This facility processes over 60,000 lbs. of food scraps into compost each month, much of which is used on Governors Island. Visitors can learn about all things composting and might even meet some goats and chickens. The Soil Start Farm demonstrates how gardeners can use readily available materials to create compost to grow plants in urban soil conditions.
GrowNYC’s Teaching Garden GrowNYC’s Teaching Garden is a one-acre urban farm that engages visitors in all aspects of urban agriculture. The Teaching Garden features over 70 vegetable beds made from recycled plastic lumber, farm-style rows, an aquaponics system, an outdoor kitchen, a high tunnel greenhouse, fruit trees, rainwater harvesting systems, a rain garden and more. During the week, GrowNYC offers Teaching Garden field trips to students and summer camps. Weekend public programming includes a farm stand, tours, gardening workshops and more.
The Honeybee Conservancy & Island Bee Project’s Bee Sanctuary The Bee Sanctuary on Governors Island is home to dozens of bee species. Join Island Bee Project and The Honeybee Conservancy for an extraordinary look into the fascinating world of bees, the super pollinators responsible for nearly one in every three bites of food you eat.
About The Trust for Governors Island The Trust for Governors Island is the nonprofit corporation created by the City of New York that is responsible for the redevelopment and operation of 150 acres of Governors Island. The Trust's mission is to transform Governors Island into a vibrant resource for New York City, making this island at the center of New York Harbor a destination with extraordinary public open space, as well as educational, not-for-profit and commercial facilities.
Looking for Volunteer Opportunities? Join our team!
Governors Island relies on dedicated volunteers to keep this incredible public space welcoming and beautiful for all. Whether you're hoping to try your hand at gardening, meet new people or become a true Island insider, our volunteer program has something for everyone. Apply today!
Want to share your enthusiasm about Governors Island with other visitors and help build a community of supporters? Island Ambassadors provide visitor services and act as a welcoming presence on Governors Island by giving directions, answering questions and informing visitors about events and activities around the Island.
Comments and opinions count! Join our survey team and collect valuable feedback from visitors about their experience on Governors Island. Your efforts will help us understand and improve the visitor experience!
Got a green thumb? As a Gardening Volunteer, you will assist the Trust for Governors Island Horticulture Staff in caring for the Island’s sprawling meadows, young forest groves, ornamental flowerbeds and landscaped hillsides.
Love Governors Island and want to share your enthusiasm with other visitors? Tour Guides lead engaging free public tours that highlight the Island’s history, current programming and plans for the future.
We love our volunteers! Join our team and get some great perks:
Free ferry rides to Governors Island
Governors Island volunteer t-shirt and nametag
Discount on merchandise from the Welcome Centers
Exciting field trips to other parks, museums and exhibitions around the city
If you have a passion about public spaces and the value they bring to urban environments, enjoy getting to know new people, and love being outdoors, Governors Island is the ideal place to volunteer. We look forward to having you on our team!
LMCC’s new Arts Center at Governors Island opened its doors in September for visitors to discover sprawling galleries with stunning exhibitions, a host of free activities on Saturdays at the Take Care series, and ample studio space for a cohort of resident artists, accessible to the public during Open Studios events. The inaugural group of sixteen artists in residence work across disciplines including sculpture, photography, writing, quilting, and more. In November, we highlighted two resident artists, Aviva Rahmani and Hilary Lorenz, exploring their practices and how having studio space at the Arts Center affects their work. Now, we’re highlighting two more artists in residence, Lize Mogel and Aaron Suggs, below.
What projects are you working on at the Arts Center? I’m working on a long-term project, Walking the Watershed, which is about the relationship between NYC and the upstate communities that our drinking water comes from. I’m using different forms of "embodied cartography" to explore how the water system is a social connector. This includes a workshop in which people make a “human diagram” of the water supply, a series of bus tours in the Catskills (where 90% of our water comes from), and a couple of other things in the works that are more installation-based and performative.
What unique opportunities or qualities does the studio space at the Arts Center offer? The community of artists, writers, and choreographers whom I'll have the privilege of working alongside for the next year. Much of “Walking the Watershed" is participatory, so I’m excited to invite the public into the project during Open Studios.
How does having space at the Arts Center affect your work or process? My thought process is always affected by my environment. I love the open space of Governor’s Island and the visible layering of history. My work is about the social economy of water, so it’s been really generative to walk around the island (especially in the quiet of the off-season) and look out at the harbor and think about what it represents—commerce, infrastructure, overlapping ecologies, and the city’s future in the face of climate change.
Has the Arts Center or Governors Island itself inspired any aspects of your work? I’ve done some previous research about NYC harbor and the Hudson River, and I have a view of the harbor from my studio (where I can watch the tides, ferries and the occasional oil barge come and go)…so stay tuned.
Had you been to Governors Island before beginning your Arts Center residency? Many times! It’s been interesting to see the changes over the last couple of years.
What projects are you working on at the Arts Center? I am making a series of photographs using small pinhole cameras that I designed and built from readily available materials like metal and PVC pipe. Currently, I am taking walks around the island, setting up the cameras in various locations and taking single images at stops along the way. These images will help me determine the best camera placement, as I build a proposal to affix the cameras to various objects across the island (a flagpole, a fence, the top of a building). The cameras will be secured in place for several months in order to capture the shifting path of the sun as it crosses over the horizon throughout the seasons. I am also gathering source materials by logging details, photographing and taking video as I travel from Brooklyn to Governors Island, via bike and ferry. The changing details that I am currently focused on are weather patterns, the river’s daily conditions; changing current and tides as well as the course that the ferry takes between Manhattan and Governors Island. Each of these elements affect and inform the others and these various forms of documentation will be integrated into works that I develop throughout my residency at the Arts Center.
What unique opportunities or qualities does the studio space at the Arts Center offer? The seasonal nature of the public programming on Governors Island means that the population density ebbs and flows quite dramatically. Throughout the length of the residency, I am sure this will influence my experience; interacting with numerous visitors when the island is open, and having a more quiet and contemplative experience during the months that the island is closed. For me, the mainstay of LMCC’s program is the proximity to the other artists participating in the residency. Having such a wide range of practices and perspectives working under one roof makes space for the exchange of ideas and concepts between artists. This community aspect creates enlivened creative energy.
Not to mention, the view from the Arts Center is breathtaking with views of the Statue of Liberty and the confluence of the rivers in the harbor. And from the highest hill on the island, you can see Brooklyn, Staten Island, and New Jersey; which attests to the fusion of the natural landscape nestled in the midst of such dense urban life.
How does having space at the Arts Center affect your work or process? For me, commuting from Brooklyn to an island in the middle of New York harbor is a transformative experience; I ride my bike from Greenpoint to lower Manhattan, then catch the ferry and cross the harbor to get to the island. The commute is something that one really has to plan for, considering access is determined by the ferry schedule. This time constraint allows me to focus and prioritize the work in the studio in a way that is all-encompassing. Having unencumbered access to the outdoor space on the island is equally important to my process, allowing my worktime to flow freely between outdoors and indoors; the studio naturally expands beyond the walls of the Arts Center.
Has the Arts Center or Governors Island itself inspired any aspects of your work? Access to Governors Island has been a springboard for the work I am currently making. My work is closely related to my everyday experiences and observations, so working at the Arts Center and on Governors Island has become an integral part of my art-making process. Placing pinhole cameras around the island literally documents the specific light patterns related to the location of the island and the vantages of the objects that the cameras are attached to. Crossing the river every day to the island is allowing me to produce a series of videos and still photographs documenting the waterways and boat movements on my journey to the studio. The landscape and environs of the island will invariably become elements of the body of work that I create during my residency.
Had you been to Governors Island before beginning your Arts Center residency? I have visited Governors Island numerous times over the last several years. It has always been an inspiring place for me, so being a part of LMCC’s residency program is an exciting opportunity. I have not spent time on the island in the off-season, so I am really looking forward to experiencing the island in all seasons and capturing the beauty of the place through my work.
Governors Island’s 172 acres contain dozens of buildings, miles of roads and paths, essential utility lines, outdoor attractions, visitor amenities, maritime infrastructure and many other features that require constant care and attention. The National Park Service stewards 22 of these acres, including two historic forts, that comprise Governors Island National Monument. The Island’s Operations department takes care of everything else.
The Operations team works to keep Governors Island in shape all year long. Visitors, Harbor School students, Island workers—anyone and everyone heading to the Island rely on the Ops team to get them there. Ops is responsible for Governors Island’s ferries, from determining service and staffing schedules, coordinating deliveries and responding to emerging conditions in the Harbor, to maintaining facilities and machinery on both sides of the crossing. Their supervision allows Governors Island’s two ferries, the Samuel Coursen and the Governors 1, to provide reliable service and keep the Island operating normally throughout the year.
Getting everyone and everything to Governors Island is just the tip of the Operations iceberg. All of the facilities, amenities, roads, paths, utilities, vehicles, equipment and landscapes on the Island (besides in the National Monument) fall under Ops’ purview, and this is not an exhaustive list. Every one of these assets, down to the railing that circles the Island’s ice cream cone-shaped shoreline, depends on Ops to keep them in good condition. This means that Ops’ day-to-day activities vary widely: any single day could see potholes filled, light posts repaired, tires changed, lawns mowed, waste collected, buildings maintained—the list goes on, and there’s always plenty to do to keep the Island safe and enjoyable for all users.
The vast majority of Operations’ duties continue year-round, though there are some seasonal tasks. The ferry landings need more management when there’s higher foot traffic in the summer; outdoor furniture comes and goes with the seasons; roads need de-icing in the winter. Some year-round duties change slightly from month to month: there are more leaves to remove from storm gutters in fall, more path repairs to make after the spring thaw, more compost to put down in the spring to jumpstart the growth of the grass. For the most part, Operations’ long list of responsibilities stays constant year-in, year-out.
From the moment you first step into the ferry line until you later disembark back in the City, the work of the Operations team positively impacts your trip to Governors Island. Whether it’s the 4th of July or New Year’s Day, Ops keeps Governors Island going.
Governors Island’s location in the middle of New York Harbor
makes it the ideal setting for initiatives that engage with the city’s
waterways and champion New Yorkers’ relationships with their local waterfront.
That’s one of the reasons Governors Island is home to the Billion Oyster
Project (BOP), a nonprofit dedicated to restoring New York’s oyster population
and, in doing so, cleaning up the waterways that allow the City’s residents — of
all species — to thrive.
While Billion Oyster Project’s ‘field season’ runs from
April through October, the organization operates year-round on Governors Island
in two main offices. During warmer months on GI, BOP volunteers prepare oyster
shells for use in manmade reefs, create new reefs from shells that nurture
juvenile oysters (which grow, multiply, and clean the Harbor), and perform
water quality assessments and reef checkups. In 2019, nearly 1,000 volunteers
completed over 4,700 hours of work on BOP projects. Coordinating this
remarkable effort requires a huge amount of preparation for the extensive
lineup of programs during the field season, which features 3-5 volunteer events
in a typical week. The off-season months are spent planning for the rest of the
year’s projects and exploring new methods of growing oysters and introducing
them to the Harbor. The current off-season will be BOP’s busiest yet; they’re
planning to double their reef production in 2020, which means there’s even more
preparation to be done this winter.
Headquartering on Governors Island provides BOP with opportunities for unique partnerships with other Island-based organizations. BOP works closely with Earth Matter, which operates the Compost Learning Center in the Urban Farm, to process empty oyster shells recycled by Island Oyster. After processing by Earth Matter, the shells are cured in BOP’s Shell Curing Site before being used in new reefs. In 2019, Earth Matter delivered over 75,000 lbs of shells to BOP for curing. The Shell Curing Site also collects shells from restaurants across the five boroughs, which are all hand-processed by BOP volunteers. To date, over one million pounds of shells have been cured by BOP on Governors Island.
BOP also works extensively with another Governors Island
tenant, the Urban Assembly New York Harbor School. The Harbor School, a
550-student high school, offers a maritime vocational curriculum across seven
areas of specialized study, all of which make use of the Harbor as a classroom.
BOP supports these programs by bringing in industry specialists to share their
knowledge, like BOP staff diver Zoë Greenberg who leads students on scientific
dives around the Harbor. BOP staff members also help run after-school programs
like the Welding Club, Waterfront Club, and Aquaponics Club. On Fridays,
students from all seven specialized tracks meet for BOP’s Harbor Corps, where
they share their current studies and work together on initiatives to support
the organization’s mission. Many Harbor School students continue their
involvement with BOP outside the school year through summer internships.
With a mission to clean New York Harbor and restore its biodiversity, where better for Billion Oyster Project to make their home than right in its heart? By locating their headquarters on Governors Island, BOP gains valuable and unique partnerships, space to operate their extensive programs, and unparalleled access to the largest single feature in the City’s vast marine ecosystem all year long. With Billion Oyster Project’s expertise and hard work leading the way, New York Harbor will be bursting with bivalves in no time.
To learn more about Billion Oyster Project, visit their website, follow them on Instagram and Twitter, or pay them a visit when Governors Island reopens to the public this spring.
2019 was one of Governors Island's biggest and best years yet. Since opening to the public nearly 15 years ago, Governors Island has made great strides towards becoming a year-round resource for all New Yorkers. We’re proud to share this year’s achievements and highlights as we work to make Governors Island even better.
Governors Island is open to the public for 6 months each year. Visitors enjoy this jewel in the Harbor spring, summer and fall, staying out for evening dining, stargazing and movies on the Parade Ground during extended summertime late-night hours.
As of this year, 6 million visitors have set sail for Governors Island since we opened to the public, with nearly 1 million setting foot on our shore in 2019.
Governors Island is an affordable, go-to getaway for New Yorkers: 80% of our 2019 visitors came from New York City.
The South Island’s lush parkland beckoned visitors to climb the Hills, relax in Hammock Grove, and enjoy sports of all kinds on the Play Fields.
Over 4,600 free weekday morning bike rentals from Blazing Saddles got people pedaling along the Island's car-free paths while nearly 1,000 free Saturday kayak sessions with the Downtown Boathouse got them paddling in the Harbor.
Hungry visitors fired up our public grills 617 times for gatherings at Picnic Point and Nolan Park.
A diverse array of over 80 events, programs and activities thrilled Governors Island visitors this year, 70 of them completely free.
Governors Island prioritizes composting, with over 75,000 lbs of material diverted from the waste stream from vendors, tenants, events and public bins to Earth Matter's Compost Learning Center in the Urban Farm, where visitors gained firsthand knowledge and experience on weekends.
Billion Oyster Project has cured over 1 million lbs of oyster shells on the Island for use in new reefs that help restore New York’s oyster population, clean its waterways and promote biodiversity.
Birds continue to thrive on our shore—birders and the avian enthusiasts of NYC Audubon have recorded 206 individual species of birds on Governors Island.
LMCC’s new Arts Center at Governors Island opened this September as the Island's first year-round tenant dedicated to arts and culture, inviting the public to explore its expansive galleries and join special events. The space will serve 40 resident artists year-round with free studio space.
The Urban Assembly New York Harbor School began its 10th school year on Governors Island this September, engaging more than 500 students with a maritime career and technical curriculum that utilizes the Harbor as a classroom.
Our Horticulture team cares year-round for over 120 acres of open space (that's over 90 football fields), filling the landscape with strategic plantings that keep the Island's ecosystems thriving, resilient and biodiverse.
2,300 Friends of Governors Island volunteers donated 11,000 hours of their time this year to keep Governors Island looking its best.
Next year, we’ll continue working to make Governors Island the 365-day-a-year destination that New York deserves it to be. Keep an eye out for announcements about next season and how we’re expanding access even more in 2020.Next year, we’ll continue working to make Governors Island the 365-day-a-year destination that New York deserves it to be. Keep an eye out for announcements about next season and how we’re expanding access even more in 2020.
Governors Island’s long history as a military base stretches
over two centuries, from the Revolutionary War era until 1996. In 1913, on the
eve of World War 1 beginning in Europe, U.S. Secretary of War Henry Stimson
called the Island the “most valuable military property in the United States.” Troops
departed from Governors Island in 1917 to seize German-owned ships and
facilities in New York Harbor as the first act of the United States in the war.
In 1918, at the height of the U.S.’s involvement in the conflict, Governors
Island served as a training ground, embarkation point, and major storage and
shipping center that handled millions of dollars’ worth of essential supplies
and equipment, making it a major asset for the U.S. Army.
An island expansion project undertaken by the Army created
the southern half of Governors Island between 1900 and 1913. Largely vacant
until the beginning of the war, the new landscape saw its first occupants in
the form of prefabricated wooden barracks and warehouses that sprung up on the
flat, empty terrain. A 1918 aerial photo of the Island (top, courtesy Ann Buttenwieser) shows a tightly packed
formation of buildings on the South Island as well as a small railroad system.
The barracks housed soldiers being trained on the Island, waiting to ship out
to Europe or other training camps, or, like the 1,000 soldiers of the 22nd
Infantry Regiment, guarding the Harbor, the Island and the $75 million of
supplies and equipment stored there.
The work of handling supplies, hauling freight, and
maintaining equipment and the Island itself was largely handled by the enlisted
Black servicemen of the Labor Battalions. As all regiments and their housing
facilities were segregated at the time, Black soldiers frequently lived in
poorer conditions, many sleeping in tents on the Island rather than in the
barracks. During WWI, over 80% of Black servicemen were assigned to Labor Battalions,
whose hard work transformed the Island into its war-ready state. On Governors
Island, a critically important base for the U.S. Army in 1918, the duties
performed by the Labor Battalions were absolutely crucial to the war effort.
To support the logistical needs of moving goods onto, off
and around the Island, the Army constructed the Governors Island Railroad. In
1918, the GIRR comprised roughly eight miles of track and featured six engines
to move goods from piers to warehouses and back. While an invaluable part of
the Island’s infrastructure, the rail line was referred to at various times as
the “world’s shortest railroad.” The tiny but indispensable rail system helped
to ship over $1 million of supplies and equipment from the Island each day at
the height of the conflict.
The war stretched the Island’s infrastructure to its limits
in 1918, which saw over 3,000 people working on the Island on average every day.
Castle Williams, having served as a prison for decades, endured its most packed
quarters yet as nearly 900 inmates, many of them draft dodgers, squeezed into
the fort. Crowded conditions contributed to an influenza epidemic that swept
across Governors Island that year, with 516 cases cramming the Island’s Post
Hospital and requiring temporary wards to be set up in tents. With the Island
buzzing with wartime activities, the annual springtime Garden Party had to be
canceled. Not all aspects of life on Governors Island were difficult; music
played a large part in keeping morale up. The Army Music School, headquartered
on GI, saw its highest enrollment with over 45 recruits in 1918, and the famed
th Infantry Band regularly competed with Castle Williams’ prison
band to play Saturday night gigs at the Officers’ Club in South Battery.
In 1918, Governors Island hummed with the war
effort—soldiers training and shipping out, freight shipments coming and going,
locomotives chugging along the shore. Few reminders of that era remain 100 years
later, particularly on the South Island, where the temporary structures were
soon demolished and replaced. That terrain, once lined with barracks and
warehouses, now boasts four earthwork Hills from which visitors can take in a
landscape layered with history, some more visible than the rest.